Have you ever noticed that the Bible doesn’t give us any instruction on how to doubt. It comes very naturally for us. Apparently we are hard-wired from birth with the ability to doubt. We are born questioners. Among a child's first words when it begins to speak is "why."
And, being a pastor doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with doubt. The Bible is filled with people who are devoted followers of God, but who questioned their faith and questioned God.
In fact, let’s meet one of them right now. His name is Asaph and we find him in the book of Psalms. I want you to listen to some of his doubts. It is gut-wrenching and brutally honest. Listen in…
You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
Psalm 77:4-9 (NLT)
Let those questions sink in for a moment. The thread that ties all these questions together is DOUBT. Has he stopped loving us? Have his promises failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? WOW!! These questions wouldn’t be politically correct in many churches…
Martin Luther once said, “Knowledge and doubt are inseparable to man . . .Only God and certain madmen have no doubts.”
I know many pastors whose life and ministry hasn’t turned out like they thought it would. They have been faithful and true to their call, but ministry has been hard, sometimes thankless, and sometimes unfair.
As I thought about this article, a question kept coming to my mind… why didn’t God make it easier? Here is what I have concluded. God knows our tendency and our nature. He knows that when life is easy and comfortable and all buttoned down, we tend to forget him. In fact, this is exactly what he said to the Israelites as they were about to enter the promised land in Deuteronomy 6. He said when you are given cities you didn’t build and houses you didn’t build and wells you didn’t dig and vineyards you didn’t plant—and you are satisfied… BE CAREFUL THAT YOU DO NOT FORGET THE LORD
When everything comes easy and life makes sense and there are no doubts, it is our nature to forget God. So, when life falls apart and doubts arise, our tendency is to look for answers. Our first thought is WHY rather than WHO.
It is our nature to look for reasons; it is God’s nature to offer relationship.
It is God’s higher value to teach you how to trust him in the midst of your doubts than provide answers that erase your doubts. The answers lie not in propositions or proof, but in a person.
I want to be sure you understand this. We all doubt. And, having doubts doesn’t make you less spiritual or less qualified as a pastor. In fact, times of doubt can lead to very positive spiritual growth. As I have thought about this in my own life, I have discovered that there are at least 3 upsides to doubt.
The Upside of Doubts
1. They Drive Me to God
When all of a sudden something in my life doesn’t make sense or I face some crisis, I am more apt to turn to God. He’s on my mind more… I am talking to him more… I love verse 1 in this passage in Psalm 77… Asaph says “I cry out to God; yes I shout.” He has big doubts. He has soul-shaking questions… but the good news is that he is talking with God.
There are some issues you have to wrestle with in the depths of your soul. There is no shortcut and there is no easy formula.
2. They Force Me to Wrestle With Life’s Difficult Questions
When I am rocking along and everything is good, it’s pretty easy to ignore some of life’s more difficult questions. However, when you lose your church, or people in the church are attacking you, or you have been hurt by a trusted friend…doubts and questions begin to flood your soul. “God, why? Where are you in this? How come this is happening to me? Are you even out there? What did I do to deserve this?”
3. They Can Deepen My Faith
When you walk through times of doubt and come out on the other side, often your faith is deepened and your confidence in God is strengthened. When nothing in life or ministry seems to make sense and you still cling to God, your faith muscle gets built.
I have a little equation, that I want you to ponder this week.
DOUBT + SURRENDER + TRUST = FREEDOM
Your doubts can lead to a time of blessed surrender. A time where you say “I don’t understand. This is out of my control.” That surrender then can lead to you learning to walk in trust and dependence. And, that trust then results in freedom. Because now you don’t have to try and be in control… you don’t have to try to fix anything…you don’t have to try to prove anything…you have died to yourself and your agenda and you know your life is in the hands of your good and gracious heavenly Father.
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